Great Lent is serious business. We observe it in part due to our love for God, and our desire to grow closer to Him. Like any discipline, it involves goals. These include our personal goals within the larger picture of the structure provided to us by the Church. As with any goal, in the process of reaching them, we fall…we get up…we fall…we get up. No one reaches a goal if they fall and give up. I look at Lent as a microcosm of our lives. For seven weeks, we get a pretty good idea of what our personal tenacity looks like. If we are having issues with focus and structure in our life outside of Lent, this is a good time to let the Church show us how to live.
The Goal of Fasting – Food is sustenance that keeps us alive. Well, no, God keeps us alive. Food is for comfort, well, maybe we should turn to God for that too…
Lent gives us the opportunity to look at the role food plays in our life. If it is impossible to eat our toast plain, without butter…even during Lent…here is an opportunity to figure out why. Going deeper into understanding our relationship with food can provide insight and strength for our endeavors. There are so many reasons food can take control of us to the point that we put it above our health and even above our Faith. It’s worth praying about and discussing with your spiritual father. Great Lent gives us a perfect opportunity.
The goal of making all of the services. Oh wait, the extra services are optional, right?
Well, I’ll just tell you what my spiritual father told me. They’re not. He raised me to understand that whenever the doors are unlocked, we are required to be in the church. I wish I could tell you that I never miss a service, but I can’t. Speaking from experience, I’ve found that this is another opportunity to understand ourselves better. When we miss a service, delving deeper into the reason can reveal where our heart is. Where are you instead? What was more important to you? The additional services during Lent give us more opportunities to see this with clarity, and pray for guidance.
The Goal of Almsgiving. Am I a goat or a sheep?
If you live in Chicago or another big city, you are blessed to be approached constantly for money. It’s pretty easy to say..oh yeah…I gave a quarter to the guy on North Avenue last week. Almsgiving doesn’t always come knocking on our door however. Your parish probably has some great opportunities for you to take part in. You can also make it a Lenten goal to identify other ways you can help others during the fast. That single young man who struggles to cook? Maybe a pot of bean soup from your kitchen could nourish him for a few days. If you haven’t identified ways to serve others during Lent, again, why? Praying for God to show you where your resources, talents and gifts can be used, can be an exercise in humility, not to mention eye opening. Reading to the blind, visiting the nursing homes…what if every Orthodox Christian in the world had a well laid out plan to pour out their love on a weekly basis during Lent? What would the world look like in just seven weeks?
Fall and get up, fall and get up…each year brings us closer to the person we were created to be…the person we want to be. If we use these seven weeks to get to know ourselves and pray for strength and guidance, we will progress. For God is with us.